Britain’s policy on immigration has been a hot debate in the country since the announcement of Brexit last year causing a period of uncertainty for UK businesses that hasn’t declined since.
Currently there is a high number of SME’s in need foreign employee’s as a way to keep their business afloat due to recruitment issues for skilled workers. Fields such as engineering, health and the technology industries are struggling the most from skilled shortages, with employers having to recruit foreign talent in order to remain operational and competitive in their market. In sectors such as construction, leisure and retail, businesses have become reliant on the 3m EEA pr workers currently in the UK, filling gaps in low-skilled jobs where domestic workers have been unwilling to take on the work. But the future of this cohort hangs in the balance of the Brexit negotiations. But what does that mean for businesses?
Resident Labour Start
Going back to the coalition. Both of the manifestos of the DUP and Conservative’s spoke of stricter stances on immigration. The Conservative’s promised to continue their mandate aim of reducing net migration to ten of thousands from the previous 100,000 target.
Despite, this being outlined, it, like everything it seems at the moments, remains unclear as to what it means specifically for economic migrants and employers of foreign staff. What is reasonable to expect however, is measures to be proposed that promote UK employers using resident labour over foreign nationals. Higher visa application costs, greater prevention of illegal working duties on employers, tougher visa eligibility criteria – all are on the cards to impact businesses. One suggestion by the Tories was an increase in the “Immigration Skills Charge”. Since April 2017, employers of foreign staff on a “Tier 2 visa” have to pay £1,000 per worker per year. The new proposal is to double this charge to £2,000, per worker per year.
For SME bosses, a rise in immigration fees such as this could be a deal-breaker, pricing them out of the global skilled talent market while still facing shortages in suitably-skilled domestic workers. As a result, there has been a rise in tier 2 to ilr applications from foreign workers to give them a potentially better chance at remaining in a job or obtaining future work.
EEA Workers Right to Remain Following Brexit
As negotiations for the country to leave the European market continue, a final decision on the future immigration status of EU nationals should be made. If Britain decide to end free movement agreement, it’s highly likely that EU nationals will seek EEA family permit requests and on paper, those nationals should be permitted to remain if they meet the requirement rules for stay. Importantly, a departure would bring a new or altered immigration system to handle EU citizens looking to settle in the UK. Whatever the form or arrangement in which the new system takes, UK employers should expect higher costs and more admin when hiring EU nationals.
What Does This Mean as A Foreign Staff Member
The conservatives have remained strong on their aim of reducing migration. This threat alone will lead to visa increases in costs, more admin as well as increased restrictions on access to the global talent, which may put SME’s off hiring foreign nationals. With that being said, as resident labour has failed to meet demands at both the skilled and low-skilled ends of the market, it remains to be seen at how plausible this approach will be in helping to support and sustain UK business growth.